The strawberry dress. The cross leggings. The Vivianne Westwood pearl choker. There are countless examples of fashion trends that TikTok has infused. This relatively new smartphone app embraces these trends so much that their original names are often overlooked in favor of “the TikTok (insert garment)”. As an Aerie employee, I saw the buying power behind TikTok as I watched girls swarm our store for months on end looking for “TikTok leggings,” a term that can be related to both leggings. Aerie crusaders or Amazon’s scrunch leggings. TikTok’s seemingly endless amount of baffling content and young audiences have created an undertone of unconsciousness around the platform. But seeing crowds of people who had never been to an Aerie before walk in with such focus and interest illustrated the tangible effects of this deceptively simple app.
For an app so commonly seen as “dumb” or “for college girls” – an insult rooted in the well-established tradition of delegitimizing the interests of women – TikTok has created an impressive amount of careers for users in a relatively short period of time from their own room. However, TikTokers rarely receive the respect that influencers are given on other apps. Whether or not their content deserves this respect depends on both the TikToker and the viewer’s perspective. With their problematic and superfluous associations with the fashion industry, fashion TikTokers are often viewed in a materialistic way. However, in view of the 156,000 emails Aerie received from customers asking to be put on the waiting list for crossed leggings, this “materialism” resonates with an audience from a multitude of different backgrounds.
At some point we have to ask ourselves: is loving clothes and the way they can make you feel frivolous, or is the assumption that these interests are frivolous in itself? ? Likewise, is TikTok thoughtless, or is this connotation the result of a lack of thought? Many people make a sharp effort to separate themselves from what society generally considers unimportant. In terms of TikTok and fashion, two frequently discredited topics, TikTok’s ability to get people to spend money – a metric American capitalism places particular emphasis on, for better or for worse – radically opposes the perception of frivolity around the two.
The subject of a TikTok does not seem to affect the popularization of a specific garment. Even videos that have nothing to do with what the designer is wearing have gone viral because of their clothes. The particular TikTok that sparked the frenzy around the aforementioned leggings was a simple dance video. This trend embodies the constant presence of the fashion industry in our lives. Just dancing, Hannah Schlenker, the designer who made the video that sparked the craze, prompted Aerie stores across the country to sell leggings – an item that, in my experience working there, hadn’t performed well for months.
While it is indisputable that the success of this video is in part due to luck and an algorithm that advocates a certain type of white user, stereotypical attractive, this type of economic impact is testament to the “productive” power – that is, the capacity to create action – of TikTok. A critical part of TikTok’s success in the fashion industry is its video format. The app relies on an interplay of video clips, text, and photos, allowing for a more multidimensional representation of clothing in a way that apps like Instagram and Pinterest have historically failed to deliver. Videos also allow brands to share backstage content and designers to provide insight into the production of their garments in a dynamic way that grabs the attention of users. The popularity of TikTok has even led other apps to change the way they format their content, illustrated by Creation of Reels by Instagram. People like to feel like they get a glimpse of seemingly glamorous events that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to, and TikTok easily gives them that inner perspective.
Regardless of my own opinions on the app, there’s no denying that TikTok has created a new avenue for marketing clothing to the public. If you ask me, Aerie owes Schlenker a lot for giving their company some publicity and buzz that they weren’t able to create with their own marketing. More generally, the associations of recklessness around TikTok and clothing are more representative of society. hypotheses on the superficiality of both than a true reflection. That’s not to say fashion and social media can’t be superficial. However, as seen with crossed leggings, the two in conjunction with each other can be a powerful means of expression and communication. Only time will tell what the marketing monster that is TikTok will popularize next.
Olivia Mouradian is an opinion columnist and can be contacted at [email protected]